As usual, the Consusmer Electronics Show (CES) was huge and overwhelming. Too much to see, too little time.
Actually, there may have been enough time, but my feet gave out before I could get to everything. The Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) booth wasn't really a booth; it was a mini-city with two-story briefing rooms. From what I did see, the big trend in consumer electronics this year will be in touch, voice, and motion sensing. All the same products were on display -- TVs, tablets, and smartphones -- but they're just doing a lot more than they did last year.
It all started for me at the Qualcomm morning keynote. Banking on a commitment from Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), Qualcomm is supporting Windows 8 along with ARM Ltd. (Nasdaq: ARMHY; London: ARM) technology. Its move into the x86 arena was showcased on stage with a demo tablet powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 running Windows 8. Furthering Qualcomm's expansion into the home, Lenovo Group Ltd. (Hong Kong: 992) showed off its SmartTV powered by Snapdragon with voice activated remote control. Can they truly get an instant-on device?
Walking the floor, there were many booths displaying motion sensing software. Soon our online shopping experience will be improved as we virtually try on clothes using motion sensing devices that allow us to view the item's fit as well as the color.
Two items that I think will change our "relationship" with electronic devices include TransferJet technology from Toshiba Corp. (Tokyo: 6502) and a nano coating from P2i Ltd., which makes our electronic devices waterproof. First, a recap of P2i's nano coating technology.
P2i has developed a technology that attaches a nanometer-thin polymer layer over the entire surface of a product -- for example, a semiconductor chip or the entire board. The layer protects the device from moisture so that when liquids come into contact with it, they form beads and simply run off. The demo consisted of two tissues (yes, the Kleenex kind) -- one that was coated, and one that wasn't. They both looked the same and felt the same, but the water on the coated tissue formed into little beads that rolled right off. When it rolled onto the uncoated tissue, it soaked right in. The secret to P2i's technology is a special application process that utilizes pulsed ionized gas that is created within a vacuum chamber to attach the polymer layer.
Aridion is the P2i product line designed for electronic products. It's an invisible liquid repellent coating that does not affect the working components of electronics, and it maintains the look, feel, and functionality of the device. This could substantially reduce warranty failure and repair costs of our electronic devices. Just think -- we can drop our cellphones into the toilet, and they would still work. But who's going to reach in and get it? It's a much nicer option than the protective bags that some exhibitors were trying to sell.
Another technology that intrigued me was from Toshiba America. Toshiba announced the availability of its single-chip LSI RFCMOS solution to support TransferJet's technology, which was developed to transfer digital content via close proximity as a download file or streaming. It has the capability of transferring files seven times faster than traditional WiFi, with a physical layer transmission rate of 560Mbp/s and a throughput of 375Mmbp/s. As an example: one hour of TV programming can be transferred in just a few seconds.
Short transmission distance reduces the risk of hacking without the need for complex security and setup. Data transfer can take place between two portable devices or between a portable device and a stationary PC, peripheral, or TV. I liked the idea of transferring information to and from a car or a kiosk.
This will really come in handy when it's installed in every kiosk around the CES floor. It would have been nice to download maps of the CES floor layout right to my phone so that I could tell where I was at all times.
All in all, I don't think there was a revolutionary new electronic device at CES this year, but the enhancements have already enticed me, and probably everyone else, to make a product upgrade very soon.